France returns Nazi-looted Degas drawing to owner’s heirs

"Trois danseuses en buste" by Edgar Degas

“Trois danseuses en buste” by Edgar Degas

(JTA) – France returned a drawing by French artist Edgar Degas to the heirs of the Nazi-looted piece.

The late 19th-century charcoal sketch of three ballerinas, called “Trois danseuses en buste,” was handed over in a ceremony Monday in Paris.

Viviane Dreyfus accepted the drawing on behalf of her father, Maurice. Dreyfus said she had not known the drawing existed, The Associated Press reported.

The Nazis stole the drawing from Maurice Dreyfus in 1940. It was found in 1951 in the building that housed the Occupation-era German Embassy, and remained in a drawer in the Louvre museum in Paris listed as MNR, for “musées nationaux récupération” – or national museums recovery – and placed under the legal responsibility of the French Foreign Ministry. The ministry was charged with finding the work’s owner, The Telegraph reported.

The French Culture Ministry tracked down the Dreyfus family by working with French genealogists in a renewed effort to return the estimated 2,000 unclaimed works currently in French museums, of which at least 145 were stolen by the Nazis.

Maurice Dreyfus, who died in 1957, reportedly never spoke of the artwork. Other works he owned were returned to him after World War II, according to The Telegraph.

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